The Academy is a bit of a toughie if you’re not an up and coming indie band and I have to say that of all the venues in Oxford, it’s not the one I expected to see Eliza Carthy performing in. A testament to her then that the place was pretty much packed out.
Proving that even the most consummate of professionals slip up sometimes it quickly emerged that she’d forgotten her accordion. Laughing it off and ducking backstage usually wouldn’t be any kind of problem, however coupled with the stifling heat it left her battling a restless crowd who took at least until the second half of opener Little Big Man to re-focus their attentions. Nevertheless, her deep and rasping voice had pulled in even the most wayward of stragglers before the start of second track Hansel (Breadcrumbs), a spin on the old fable of Hansel which she confesses beforehand actually never mentions Hansel once, and the first of many tracks to be played from her latest release Neptune.
Album opener Blood On My Boots is similarly an undoubted highlight of the recording, but it stands out further once you’ve heard firsthand the real life experience it came out of, with Carthy explaining a trip to the premiere of Jerry Springer The Opera in London and the retrospectively humorous set of circumstances she found herself in that night. It occurs to me then that this is part of Carthy’s charm, a natural ability to talk and connect with her audience and a genuine down-to-earth-ness. Her success and longevity also owe a lot to the abundance of sounds she can turn a fiddle and accordion to, albeit with a band behind her. Her fiddle prowess is demonstrated no better than during Mr Magnifico, which gets the biggest audience rise of the night.
Whilst for me War was a standout track, it was Monkey which seemed to get the biggest reaction from the rest of the audience of any track from the latest release. That is of course until Britain Is A Carpark, a song which includes ‘chavvy potatoes’ in Spanish, a phrase which she admits ‘I invented, but it’s my song, so ner’. Kudos. Once again it seems that Carthy continues to break the mould, never allowing herself to be shoehorned into the ‘traditional folk’ category.